Kathleen Horning’s Cover to Cover

I’m going to go way out on a limb here and say that my book buying habits have been inconsistent, to say the least.  I have a very limited budget.  I started developing my collection by really trying to understand what was useful but unpopular, and popular but not very useful academically.  I buy for certain assignments.  I also have found a couple of vendor opportunities where my time is very limited but I need to make purchasing decisions very quickly.  So my latest strategy for non-fiction has been to shop with a particular Dewey area in mind.  I used to be able to have my collection on my phone so I could make sure that I wasn’t buying a double of something we already have.

I’ve always been interested in reviews, of course, but what they lead to is sometimes just a folder full of wishes for new books.   I just finished reading Kathleen Horning’s book on evaluating and reviewing children’s literature: Cover to Cover.   I really appreciated Horning’s advice throughout her book and my next step will be to make a quick buying list.  For example, I always examined non-fiction for its relevance to my students, a table of contents and its index.  New to me are making sure that the font size is relevant, that pictures or graphs are helpful not just decorative, and making sure that the references are current and descriptive.  I would have liked Horning to go a deeper into how to choose fiction.  Mostly I try to make sure there is something for everyone in my fiction collection.

For reviews I often go to the Ontario Library Association and the Ontario School Library Association‘s magazines and websites for recommendations.  Many times my budget dictates that I can concentrate on a certain area of the collection so I go out of my way to find reviews or bloggers with those interests in mind.  An area that I’ve been determined to expand is on teen sexuality and positive role models for my LGBT population.  Last summer I discovered Lee Wind’s blog “I’m Here, I’m Queer, What the Hell do I read?”  Lee has an education degree so he’s not just thinking about books, but also how he would use them in a school setting.  Similarly the Canadian Children’s Book Centre, although under-developed, has thematic listings that I find very useful.  I think if the blogger is focused on young adult (as I am), is Canadian and an educator, then they can be a valid and relevant voice.  However that’s a tall order.  All suggestions welcome.

More than anything, Horning’s book emphasized to me what a need there is for more reviewers! Since Canadian school librarians are such a privileged and elite group, we owe it to the world to review material.  It has given my blog new purpose.  I’m not sure how I will continue to organize my reviews, but I intend to keep reviewing.

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